President-Elect Joe Biden is planning to nominate former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg to head the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to published reports. As transportation secretary, he would play a large role in Biden's push for a bipartisan infrastructure package.
However, it’s unclear what experience in transportation the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor would bring to the role, with Politico saying “Buttigieg's landing spot comes as a surprise given his thin transportation policy resume.”
Politico notes that South Bend, with a population of just over 100,000, has a relatively small transportation footprint. The local transit agency has a fleet of 60 buses, and the nearby airport is run by the county, not the city.
“But that lack of experience did not stop Buttigieg from making grand plans on the campaign trail in 2020,” Politico observes. He was one of the first presidential primary candidates to put out an infrastructure plan, a 17-page, $1 trillion proposal that among other things touted a vehicle-miles-traveled fee to replace the fuel tax.
His plan to shore up the Highway Trust Fund was for the government to “inject” $165 billion to keep it afloat through 2029, while requiring DOT to propose a new user fee system such as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee to replace the fuel tax.
The plan also called for a national “Vision Zero” policy to work toward eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
It also called for $150 billion to improve public transportation, including $100 billion for states and cities to repair existing systems and expand their rail and bus services.
“Under my administration, local governments will finally have a partner in Washington,” Buttigieg wrote in the plan. “As a former mayor, I know that priority-based budgets made locally are better than budget-based priorities set in Washington.”
American Trucking Associations issued a statement shortly after the news broke from ATA President and CEO Chris Spear, who said, “Transportation is an issue that touches all Americans – urban, rural, coastal and in the heartland of our nation. Having served as a mayor, Pete Buttigieg has had an up close and personal look at how our infrastructure problems are impacting Americans, and how important it is to solve them.... We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with him to begin the important work of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.”
Other Democrats were also considered for the post, according to CNN, including former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.
If confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary.